It’s me again!

Around the Nation

by Tom Van Dusen

Hi! It’s me, Tom Van Dusen, still kicking around the news business after all these years, going back 50 actually — could that really be possible — with stints at the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun, CTV News, various agricultural and weekly papers, and even a couple of summers back in the day at the long-gone Ottawa Journal.

In between those assignments, I’ve served on Parliament Hill as a communications advisor, Russell Township as a municipal councillor, and on various boards and committees mostly related to agriculture, natural resources and live theatre. As you can see, I’m not just a one-trick pony.

I’m like something unidentifiable stuck on the bottom of your shoe … you just can’t get rid of me! Now I’m trying my hand at new-fangled online reporting with Nation Valley News which, after four years of operation, is increasingly becoming part of the information digest in this neck of Eastern Ontario.

I met the guy that started this service and continues to run it, Nelson Zandbergen, more than 20 years ago when he came to work at the late Robin Morris’ newspapers in Chesterville for which I produced columns and stories. Nelson could write better than other raw recruits and could have been a contender for a job with the dailies; however, the rural weekly lifestyle suited him just fine, and he stuck around to eventually develop NVN.

And now we’re reunited and it feels so good, reunited ’cause we understood — sorry … got carried away for a minute! — with Nelson as editor and me writing news and feature stories, columns and taking pictures. This, my friends, is the introduction of ‘Around the Nation’, a personalized weekly offering of commentary and observations about the fabric that weaves together this fine region in which we dwell.

Because the economic and community backbone of the region is agriculture, that occupation will figure prominently in Around the Nation; but we’ll certainly touch on other aspects of life in the slow lane, including politics, general commerce, social intricacies, prominent people, specific places, and much more.

Like the name of the news service, the column title refers to the Mighty Nation River and its tributaries which irrigate 4,300 square kms from headwaters just north of Brockville to the Ottawa River at Plantagenet; that’s roughly our coverage area, spilling into communities around it.

But the title also refers to this land is your land and this land is my land — sorry again! — so column topics may occasionally veer into the broader national condition during and after COVID-19 … if there is an “after.” We promise not to be heavy into COVID because, frankly, nobody wants to hear about it anymore.

These days, I hang my straw hat in a rambling 120-year-old house overlooking the harbour in Prescott, the town on the St. Lawrence Seaway as opposed to the county of the same name. I still live part-time in Russell going back to when my parents bought a home in that village close to 50 years ago. For most of the 1970s, I resided in a stately brick farmhouse on the Limerick Road south of Chesterville, a farming hotspot which experienced a tragic fatal accident recently.

Nelson has decreed that Around the Nation will run Thursdays so please look for it then. I’m not sure where in the stream it’ll be placed … naturally, I’m hoping for the front page!

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